Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

The poem in time

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Poems proceed in two ways at once: in time, sequentially, insofar as the first word is read first, the second word second, and so on; and in illo tempore, as a pattern forming as we read the words and formed after we have read them. The latter is indicated by our intuitions of closure—as Yeats said, “The poem comes right with a click like a closing box.” We feel a sequence and pattern join and complete itself. So each word must not only promote its own interest, to stir us out of our linguistic habits, but it must also engage us in the manifold pattern emerging. This may be why we are unsatisfied by a string of brilliant images, no matter how amazing or amusing each is in itself, if that’s all the poem is; and are at least as unsatisfied by poems whose pattern seems too mechanical or static. We want richness, evocation, connections too various for analysis, much less for codification by prosody. We want to feel the poem as we feel the atmosphere when entering a room where so many things are happening we can’t possibly isolate them.

Michael Ryan, A Difficult Grace

Written by nevalalee

July 21, 2018 at 7:30 am

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